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Botulism

more about Botulism


  • Botulism is a type of Food Poisoning caused by toxin produced by the bacterium, Clostridium botulinum.  This organism, found in soil and water throughout the world, finds its way into food, primarily meats and vegetables.  Here it produces spores that grow into adult bacteria in the absence of air-as in canned products.
  • Clostridium botulinum thrives on low acidity, depleted oxygen, and temperatures between 40-120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once such an environment is found, the organism multiplies and releases its toxin.  Boiling for 30 minutes kills the spores.
  • Botulism toxins interfere with transmission of information from nerves to muscle, affecting the muscles involved with respiration, leading to muscle paralysis and difficulty breathing.  If the respiratory muscles remain paralyzed for very long, death may result.

  • Occur 12-36 hours after ingestion of contaminated food --
  • Visual disturbances
  • Eyelid droop
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Speaking difficulties
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Breathing Difficulties

  • Home canned foods
  • Commercial canned foods
  • Cured ham, smoked or raw fish, non-acidic home or improperly canned foods (e.g., mushrooms, green beans, lima beans, soups, sauces), poorly prepared foods from restaurants (e.g., potato salad)-all examples of foods that often contain the botulism toxin.
  • Smoked foods
  • Vacuum-packed foods

  • Examination may show --
    1. Cranial nerve palsy (e.g., difficulty with eye movements)
    2. Dilated pupils
    3. Decreased movement of muscles of respiration
  • Laboratory findings --
    1. Botulism toxin present in blood test
    2. Botulism toxin in suspected foods

  • Botulinum antitoxin (equine)
  • Mechanical ventilator if needed for breathing support

  • Seek Immediate Emergency Medical Treatment as it can cause death


  • Special information
    1. Note on Infant Botulism --
      • Infant botulism is really a different type of illness than traditional botulism as described above.  It occurs when infants consume food contaminated with botulism spores, resulting in a generalized illness, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Infants should never be given honey because it is a known source of botulism spores.  This condition can be very serious.  If you suspect your child has infant botulism, seek immediate medical treatment.
    2. Warning
      • Since the cause of botulism is the toxins made by the bacteria, not the bacteria themselves, cooking food containing botulism spores does not prevent the disease.




more about Botulism


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